Yeshiva University’s vice provost, Lawrence Schiffman, hired a lawyer named Clifford Rieders from Pennsylania, who has some beef with an old post of mine about Raphael Golb being prosecuted for using sock puppets. Oh boy. His lawyer sent out this email:
Law Offices of
Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Harris,
Waters & Waffenschmidt
161 West Third Street
PO Box 215
Williamsport, PA 17701
E-MAIL TO: Eugene Volovh [[email protected]]
FROM: Clifford A. Rieders, Esquire
DATE: March 13, 2013
RE: Lawrence Schiffman
CC: Professor Lawrence Schiffman
Please be advised that the undersigned represents Professor Lawrence Schiffman, previously Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University, Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, now Vice Provost of Yeshiva University.
Dr. Schiffman’s name was the subject of illegal and criminal misconduct by Raphael Golb. Your website has been provided to me as one of the locations where the criminal postings occurred.
Please confirm that within five (5) work days of the date of this email the following will occur:
1. Complete removal of the blog material;
2. Removal of index entries on search engines;
3. Cancellation of fraudulent email accounts;
4. Removal of any other mention or reference to Dr. Schiffman by Mr. Golb or anyone responding to him.
We will need your certification as to all efforts made to expunge the material.
I enclose as Exhibit 1 news release by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announcing the arrest of the 49-year-old Raphael Golb for creating multiple aliases to engage in the campaign of impersonation and harassment relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls and scholars of opposing viewpoints. Mr. Golb was arrested on charges of identity theft, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment.
I am also enclosing as Exhibit 2 letter from Director, Witness Aid Services Unit, District Attorney of the County of New York, providing a temporary order of protection which the court issued in the aforementioned criminal case.
I am advised that Mr. Golb has been convicted and appeals denied. Unfortunately, there continue to be current blogs containing Golb’s fabricated story, as though Dr. Schiffman acknowledged or admitted some wrongdoing. I am enclosing not only a variety of sampling but also the platform, address and the blog as well as URLs.
Please contact me as soon as possible at …
He sent one to me. He sent one to Eugene Volokh. I wasn’t impressed. Eugene wasn’t impressed. He wrote:
The e-mail from Mr. Rieders of course offers no explanation of how this is a “criminal posting,” because of course it isn’t. Fortunately, I can tell that there is absolutely zero basis for the demand letter; other recipients of the e-mail might not be so lucky.
I generally do not publish letters sent to me, but unfounded demands such as this are an exception. This is especially so because demonstrating the unsoundness of the lawyer’s argument requires showing the entirety of the letter — both the particular language that the letter included (“criminal postings,” the demand for “[c]omplete removal of the blog material,” the demand for “[r]emoval of any other mention or reference to Dr. Schiffman by Mr. Golb or anyone responding to him,” and so on) and what the letter didn’t include (any specific explanation for why the material would indeed be legally actionable).
Eugene is much nicer than I am. Had he not calmly and succinctly explained the email’s massive failing, I would have been constrained to respond, bite me. I am happy to say that because of Eugene’s parsing of the unfounded email, I can maintain my dignity, merely refer to Eugene’s response, and add, “what he said.”
So, what he said. Asshole. I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist. Eugene would never use such language. I’m so ashamed.
Update: Apparently, the plot thickens. Just as Rieders is busily trying to sanitize the internet of arguments that might favor Golb and not-so-much favor Schiffman, it turns out that the New York Cout of Appeals (the top court in New York) has Eugene’s new post at VC :
I e-mailed Mr. Rieders yesterday evening to ask for a comment on the matter, but have not yet heard back from him; I’ll post his response if I do get it.
UPDATE: Mr. Rieders called back and said they checked shortly before sending the e-mail, and didn’t know of anything then about the highest court’s grant of leave to appeal, or even that the petition for leave to appeal had been pending.
In light of Ken at Popehat’s having emailed Rieders, and receiving a response that Rieders knows nothing about any email and to get lost, Rieders response to Eugene emits an unpleasant odor.
While Eugene, lawprof that he is, may bend over backwards to avoid any possibility of suggesting anything inappropriate in the absence of conclusive proof to the contrary, none of this comports with the basic expectation that before a lawyer (not an academic, or a guy with a beef, but a lawyer) sends out an email making representations that Golb is guilty and all appeals have been denied, he would have made pretty darned sure that was accurate. To subsequently not only claim that he knew nothing of the pending petition for leave to appeal, but that it had been granted two days before sending the email, is a problem.
Is it possible? Sure. It doesn’t speak well of Rieders diligence or lawyering skills, but it’s possible. On the other hand, it’s impossible to reconcile his response to Eugene and his response to Ken.
Update 3: The story shifts a little bit more with Eugene’s “correction” to his own update:
Mr. Rieders called back and said they checked shortly before sending the e-mail, and didn’t know of anything then about the highest court’s grant of leave to appeal, or even that the petition for leave to appeal had been pending.I e-mailed this UPDATE to Mr. Rieders to confirm it with him (I’d read it over the phone during our conversation, but I wanted to check it in writing), and he thought this summary was inaccurate; I therefore thought that I’d instead just quote what he said in the return e-mail: “[A]t the time I sent you the email, there had not yet been any posting about the appeal which we explicitly checked for and the DA had not informed us that anything was pending at yet a second appellate level.”
Why Eugene felt the need to obtain Rieders secondary approval of the update is surprising. Either Rieders said it or he didn’t, and if he said it, then it doesn’t need to be double fact checked, and Eugene doesn’t need Rieders approval to write what he said. Weird.
Still, neither Rieders nor Eugene, for that matter, offers any explanation of why he would make an affirmative representation that was flagrantly false if he didn’t know it to be accurate?
Update 4: And shortly after the above “correction,” Eugene added this to his post:
FURTHER UPDATE: Mr. Rieders e-mails to add, “In the interest of integrity you should also state that this does not dilute our original message that impersonation is improper and those who aide and abet in impersonation may subject themselves to civil liability.” It is my pleasure to quote that.
It appears that things have no come full circle, it being wonderful to see Clifford Rieders show a sudden interest in integrity, even if he struggles to grasp the meaning of the word after having falsely denied he sent the original email to Ken, on top of having actually sent such a ridiculous, ignorant and outrageous threatening demand.
It’s also good to see Eugene reminded why he had a problem with Rieders in the first place. I hope that message is what he meant in his “pleasure to quote that” phrase. I really hope so.